By SUZANNE DOWNING
Certain basic functions of everyday life distinguish us from animals. Our use of fire is among them. We cook with it, heat with it, and light the darkness with it. In many ways, fire on the stove is the center of our family life. In days of our ancestors, we even kept wild animals at bay with torches burning hot with the rendered fat of animals.
Now the United States federal government is coming for our fire. It’s to protect the children, the federal government says, through an unelected bureaucrat who wants to regulate gas cookstoves out of existence.
Richard Trumka, Jr., commissioner of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, has been firing up the talking points devised years ago by environmentalists who say gas stoves are bad for the environment. Now, it’s a different threat, Trumka said, because of children. The stoves are fast-tracked to be at least partially banned or heavily regulated (read: made unaffordable) by the agency, starting first with the prohibiting of any new gas hookups to be installed in new homes or new apartments across America.
Trumka told it to Bloomberg this month, but said it to other reporters last month and the month before. It’s a steady drumbeat from the environmentalists trying to “keep it in the ground.”
The keep-it-in-the-ground movement uses studies such as one published in Nature in 2021, which says that 90% of remaining coal in the earth must remain untouched, and 60% of oil and fossil methane gas must stay underground in order for the planet to have a 50% chance of keeping temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius “above pre-industrial levels.” Everything must go to electric.
It wasn’t that long ago that we were carving out our lives in caves, building sooty fires of driftwood and beach coal to stay warm and to cook seagull eggs, roast oysters, or bubble some porridge of sorghum or amaranth. Life was nasty, brutish, and short, as described by Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan. “No arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continua fear, and danger of violent death.”
Came along the combustion engine, electricity, paraffin, oil, and natural gas. There was light in the dark. Lifespans increased, people could warm themselves, cook, and have nice things. They could ward off sickness because they were healthier.
But authoritarians use power to gain power. Climate change policy — that ever-changing goal post of the Left — is beta-tested in California, which is, under Democrat control for a generation, moving everyone to the electric grid. In 1992, Southern Californians were forced off of charcoal barbecues, and told they must use propane and gas. As for those wood-chip barbecue chimneys, cooks were forced to use only certain kinds of wood chips and certain brands of starter gels.
The public went quietly along, all in the name of reducing air pollution, repairing the ozone layer, and being good, compliant citizens. After all, it was just charcoal. There was always gas.
Thirty years later, more than 50 governmental units in California have banned gas hookups in new homes and other buildings. The new order is that everyone must move to electric stoves.
And who controls the electricity monopoly? The government-licensed utilities, which also must ration out enough electricity to charge up the electric cars that are part of the government-mandated conversion to all electric.
Last September, California warned people to limit their electric usage between 4-9 pm, as “all resources are committed or forecasted to be in use and energy deficiencies are expected.” The California Independent System Operator asked people to not use large electric appliances. They told people to limit charging their electric cars during the power shortage.
When government can turn on and turn off the power, and when there are no alternatives, the people are right to be worried.
The backlash against Trumka and the Democrats was swift and painful. They had been revealed in all their authoritarian glory.
Trumka and his handlers backed down. They tried to change their story: “To be clear, CPSC isn’t coming for anyone’s gas stoves. Regulations apply to new products,” he said.
The reality is, Trumka revealed the real plan. First ban new stoves, then make parts unavailable for existing stoves, then do a tax incentive to turn in your stove.
They want everyone on a centralized power grid that has the government controlling the current to their homes, businesses, and cars. There will be no choice, no free market in fuels. There will be no consumer propane tanks.
In 1992, Americans never thought the government would come for their cooking stoves. In 1992, you would have been considered a conspiracy theorist to predict government would start promoting bugs for food.
In 2023, we can predict, without so much of a tin hat, that the government will soon come calling for our candles, backyard fire pits, and pellet-burning heating units.
They may have tried to take back the words, but they are coming for our fire. Authoritarians on the Left, in their attempt to take power from the people, have threatened the most primordial aspect of our nature: The human imperative to survive.
Suzanne Downing is publisher of Must Read Alaska.